Unconventional internalization mechanisms underlying functional delivery of antisense oligonucleotides via cationic lipoplexes and polyplexes

J Control Release. 2011 Jul 15;153(1):83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2011.04.029. Epub 2011 May 4.


There is mounting interest in developing antisense and siRNA oligonucleotides into therapeutic entities; however, this potential has been limited by poor access of oligonucleotides to their pharmacological targets within cells. Transfection reagents, such as cationic lipids and polymers, are commonly utilized to improve functional delivery of nucleic acids including oligonucleotides. Cellular entry of large plasmid DNA molecules with the assistance of these polycationic carriers is mediated by some form of endocytosis; however, the mechanism for delivery of small oligonucleotide molecules has not been well established. In this study, splice-shifting oligonucleotides have been formulated into cationic lipoplexes and polyplexes, and their internalization mechanisms have been examined by using pharmacological and genetic inhibitors of endocytosis. The results showed that intercellular distribution of the oligonucleotides to the nucleus governs their pharmacological response. A mechanistic study revealed that oligonucleotides delivered by lipoplexes enter the cells partially by membrane fusion and this mechanism accounts for the functional induction of the target gene. In contrast, polyplexes are internalized by unconventional endocytosis pathways that do not require dynamin or caveolin. These studies may help rationally design novel delivery systems with superior transfection efficiency but lower toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cations / metabolism
  • Caveolins / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Drug Carriers / metabolism*
  • Endocytosis* / drug effects
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lipids* / chemistry
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / administration & dosage*
  • Polyethyleneimine / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Cations
  • Caveolins
  • Drug Carriers
  • Lipids
  • Lipofectamine
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Polyethyleneimine